Saturday, July 16, 2011


There’s nothing like a half-mile long convention center exhibit hall full of publishers throwing books at you to get you back in the mood for book-blogging. The American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference was in New Orleans last month, and the exhibit hall was a librarian’s heaven on earth. You’d walk past a table and a book would appear in your hands—an ARC, or Advanced Reading Copy. Many of those ARCs were new graphic novels and illustrated books that represent an especially exciting trend in publishing right now. Here are some new and up-coming titles, fresh from the forty-pound bag of books that this librarian lugged across that exhibit hall, through the convention center, and down the streets of New Orleans.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, Sep. 11, 2011, Scholastic Books (Children’s Illustrated Novel)

Brian Selznick’s debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, won the Caldecott Medal. Selznick’s second book, Wonderstruck, continues to push the boundaries of the illustrated novel format. Just as Hugo Cabret told a good portion of its story through full-page black-and-white drawings, Wonderstruck is also full of Selznick’s trademark illustrations. But this time, half the novel is told through pictures alone—the story of Rose, a girl in the 1920s who becomes enchanted with a beautiful actress. Ben’s story, set in 1977 as he runs away from home, is told in words. Combined, the stories of Rose and Ben offer tales of mystery and intrigue that wind and weld through a union of art and prose. Selznick has become an expert at mixing elements of the novel, graphic novel, picture book, and film, and Wonderstruck continues to cement his reputation as a visionary in his field.

Trickster: Native American Tales—A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki, 2010, Fulcrum Books (Graphic Novel Anthology)

Native American stories are often overlooked in literature; even more so in the graphic novel boom that has swept book publishing the last few years. But Trickster: Native American Tales remedies all that—and does so in an intelligent, artistic, and truly delightful way. Collecting various interpretations of the Trickster character and myth just as it collects different artists and authors to tell the tales, Trickster is a unique and authentic anthology. The artwork ranges in style from bubbly cartoon rabbits to realistic raccoons to black-and-white inked coyotes and ravens; the tales are drawn from many cultures to emphasis the distinct differences between North America’s tribal groups. But it’s not only educational information about a too-often-ignored history; Trickster is as genuinely funny as it is thought-provoking. Whether he’s a coyote creating stars in the sky or a rabbit out-witting bison, there’s something for everyone in the tales of the Trickster.

Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys by Matt Phelan, Oct. 11, 2011, Candlewick Press (Children’s Graphic Nonfiction)

Picture book illustrator Matt Phelan won critical acclaim for his 2009 historical graphic novel The Storm in the Barn, a Depression-era story tinged with fantasy. His new book, Around the World, is no less enchanting for being based on fact. In 1873, Jules Verne published Around the World in Eighty Days, his famous adventure story about a high-stakes race around the world. The novel captured the public imagination, and a few intrepid real-life adventures determined to embark on their own worldwide round-trips. Phelan’s beautifully illustrated book follows ex-miner Thomas Stevens on his bicycle (the old-fashioned kind with the giant front wheel), sea captain Joshua Slocum all alone on his thirty-six-foot ship, and sassy reporter Nellie Bly as she charges around the globe to beat Jules Verne’s fictional eighty-day challenge. The adventures are thrilling enough in black and white; the final book will be published in glorious full color.

The Wikkeling by Steve Arntson, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazinni, 2011, Running Press Kids Books (Children’s Illustrated Novel)

Henrietta’s life is controlled by rigid rules that “protect” her from deadly things like house cats (dangerous wild animals) and old books (which can make you sick). But one night Henrietta finds an injured cat in a secret attic. From the tip-top windows, she can see her neighborhood the way it used to look in the idyllic way-back-when days. Good things rarely last, however, and soon a mysterious, long-fingered yellow creature called the Wikkeling is haunting Henrietta. Its mere touch can give you a headache, and it wants to know where you’ve been and what you’ve seen. As Henrietta investigates this menacing apparition and the world she lives in, readers are delightfully creeped out by illustrator Daniela J. Terrazinni’s stark and wild drawings. The dystopian world of The Wikkeling is eerily similar to our own, and that is of course where its real appeal lies.

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales by Chris Van Allsburg, Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, and Jon Scieszka with an introduction by Lemony Snicket, Oct. 25, 2011, Houghton Mifflin Books (Children’s Picture Book/ Short Story Collection)

Since it was first published in 1984, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg has been inspiring people to write stories. The original introduction tells of Harris Burdick, a man who left his artwork with a publisher and walked out the door—never to return again. The fourteen fascinating illustrations and their even-more fascinating captions remain to motivate writers all around the world. Now, twenty-seven years later, the best and brightest of children’s and young adult literature contribute their stories to the Harris Burdick oeuvre. In October, readers young and old can experience Lois Lowry’s story about the nun flying through the cathedral whilst seated primly in a wooden chair, Stephen King’s tale about the blast-off house, and Chris Van Allsburg’s own version of the girl and her caterpillars. By turns creepy, cute, and comical, this new batch of stories will inspire Harris Burdick fans all over again.

Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page by Matt Kish, Oct. 11, 2011, Tin House Books (Illustrated Novel)

One day in 2009, Matt Kish, a librarian and artist in Ohio, was inspired by his “undying love” for a big book about a man and a whale. Kish decided to draw an illustration for every page of the Signet Classics edition of—you guessed it—Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Two years and 552 pages later, Kish’s project is complete. Using common materials and found pages, Kish deliberately employed a low-tech style in response to the increasing amount of digitally produced book art. A quote or passage from each page of Moby-Dick is Kish’s inspiration, and the result—seen in a few promotional postcards and a simple BLAD (Book Layout and Design, a sort of six-to-twelve-page mini-ARC)—is beautiful, fun, and inspiring. Kish began his Moby-Dick drawings as an art project for his modest blog; in a few months his artistic interpretation of Melville’s masterpiece will be available to one and all.